Healdsburg, CA

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They call it Beverly Healdsburg. In the fall off season, it’s a pretty place to drink wine with a view of the vineyards. We recommend the Dry Creek valley — Wilson, Unti, and Lambert Bridge. Take a bottle to go, for a party in the park later. Chase the wine with a refreshing swim in the Russian River. Then, head downtown for a down-to-earth meal at Wurst. Dance in the city centre park to live music on many summer and fall nights.

Oakland, Berkeley, and Alameda, CA

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Two delicious days in the East Bay:

Fill up on Chicago-style deep dish pizza at Zachary’s. We recommend the tomato-mushroom pie. Then, head over to the Alameda naval yards for a tour and tasting at St George’s Distillery. Craft absinthe — yum! The next morning, sit at a communal table at Rick and Ann’s and order the flannel hash or the banana pancakes. Then walk through the U.C. Berkeley campus and admire the architecture. The Morrison and South reading rooms are our favorite places to read, while the campanile bells always give me chills.

San Francisco, CA

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Oh, to be back in my beloved City! I lived here in the ’90s, and it’s good to be home. Here are of few pleasures from the trip:

Food and Drink

Vintage soda fountain cocktails at the Ice Cream Bar in Cole Valley

Soba noodles at the Citrus Club in the Haight. This was one of my favorites in the ’90s, and they’re still good.

Off the Grid food truck festival in Fort Mason.

The Proxy Project shipping container food court: Smitten and Suppenkuche’s Biergarten. Try the Tcho chocolate krispies on your ice cream. The lamb bratwurst with mango salsa is the best sausage we’ve ever had.

Fish tacos at Papalote in the Mission

Creme Brulee cart: try the whisky caramel sauce

Retro cocktails at the Bourbon and Branch speakeasy. They do amazing things with lavender and lillet.

Pakwan, our favorite Pakistani greasy spoon

Food stalls at the Ferry Building farmer’s market. Try the enchamale at the tamale stand.

Entertainment

Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, with 20 minutes newly-found footage, at the Castro

Musee Mechanique, a living museum of arcade games. Go on a weekday, as it’s nuts on the weekends.

Maritime Museum — fascinating ships and expansive views

Exploratorium. Their new location in the piers is stunning.

Sights

Greenwich and Filbert street steps in Telegraph Hill. Watch for the wild parrots.

Carved ceilings in the Mission District library

Bay walkway between pier 1 and pier 20

Monastery Beach Kayaking, Carmel, CA

Lion’s Mane jellyfish

Monastery Beach is an intermediate paddling destination in Carmel. Be prepared to launch through the waves into a steep drop-off, followed by a dense kelp forest and rolling waves. This is not a safe swimming destination — they call it “mortuary beach”. The paddler’s reward is the sight of Lion’s Mane jellyfish with their stomachs unfurled, gliding just below your boat.

 

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Big Sur, CA

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Pfeiffer day use beach offers gorgeous scenery, a sand climbing hill for the kids, and a great place to picnic. It’s a narrow one-way road to get down to the beach, so leave the big rigs up top. McWay waterfall is a short, scenic, and crowded day hike. Sadly, the beach at the base of the falls is closed due to landslide. Hike inland to view Canyon Falls. When the campground at Julia Pfeiffer park is closed, they’ll often let you camp in the overflow lot for a reduced rate.

 

Hearst Castle, San Simeon, CA

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A Spanish cathedral and an Italian villa had a baby, and they named it Hearst Castle. This trip proved to be the perfect preview for our trip to Spain and Vienna. William Hearst did the “Grand Tour” of Europe as a boy, then sought to build an eclectic European castle on the California coast. Julia Morgan’s genius shines. Can you imagine working as an architect with a client who changed the blueprints daily? Julia masterfully blends building materials from Spain, Egypt, Greece, and Italy while making it all work together.

 

Cambria, CA

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Ocean, pinot, ollalieberry pie, and views. What could be better? Start with a walk on the boardwalk at Moonstone Beach. Then head inland through town to the Stolo family winery for a pinot and cabernet flight. Finish the day with a mini ollalieberry pie in the garden at Linn’s farmstore.

Morro Bay, CA

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Cold, foggy, and dreamy — Morro Bay inspires paddling and reading. Launch a kayak at Morro Bay State Park and paddle towards Morro Rock. Watch the winds. It was so blustery that we were paddling at full speed just to stay still! A beginning sailer capsized his boat and it took 3 folks from the coast guard to set it right. On a calm day, paddle to Morro Rock, picnic on the beach, and admire the seals. The campground at Morro Bay State Park is busy and crowded, but at least it has hot showers and a scenic trail around the neighboring wetlands. Resourceful paddlers access the showers just southeast of the boat launch to clean up after a day in the water.

San Luis Obispo, CA

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Go on a Thursday evening for the farmers’ market, if you can. The whole downtown becomes a lively party, street fair, and local food tasting. Yum! Vendor stalls offer lots of dinner options. The sausage BBQ had the longest line. Eggplant parmesan and bratwurst were both delicious. After dinner, catch live music and enjoy the garden at Linnea’s Cafe. Then sip an espresso at the funky cafes on Higuera street. The next day, work off the calories at Bishop peak, which has expansive views and bouldering access. San Luis Obispo is an up-and-coming startup community. They have a coworking space, accelerator, incubator, and Start Up Weekend. The entrepreneurial community benefits from the energy of Cal Poly university and from a growing population of tech-savvy Los Angeles escapees. While SLO isn’t a beach town, the beach is a half hour away. Head south for sunny beaches, or north for the contemplative fog and friendly seals of Morro Bay.